Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Plot or Narrative?

It is said that fiction that is any good at all must have a plot. When it does not it is mere narrative. I’ll quote an example: ‘The queen died, and then the king died’. This is narrative, a record of what happened. No reason is given or speculated upon to explain the events recorded. When the sentence is expanded to: ‘The queen died, and then the king died of grief’ the narrative becomes a plot. Plot has to do with cause and effect. It generates interest in the reader and spurs her to go on reading.
                Is mere narrative, then, second rate fiction? I can’t answer this, but I believe that narrative alone can be redeemed. For example, if there is a twist in the tale. Here’s a piece of flash fiction. It has no plot as such. It does not answer at least two questions that might reasonably have been raised – (1) how did Sam come to be homeless? and (2) how did Sam die? See  what you think, anyway.


At first I thought Sam was sleeping when I found him lying under the hedge on that bright winter’s morning. But he was quite dead. “Poor old chap” I said to myself. For some reason my first instinct was to find an old blanket and cover him, though God knows, he was hardly in need of protection from the cold any more.
Over the past couple of years he’d been a “regular” in our street, appearing on my front doorstep and those of my neighbours where he could be fairly sure he’d get food or drink. I guess we are a pretty well-disposed lot. No-one ever threatened him or sent him off. But then there was a decency, even a dignity about him. He communicated by look rather than voice, and in doing so he brought out the best in us.
I’m not sure how he came to be called “Sam”. It may have been old Mrs Dobson, two doors up from me, who had so named him. She had a stone seat in her front garden, and Sam would make himself comfortable there on occasions, often dozing for much of a sunny afternoon under the shade of her cherry tree. She referred to him as “just an old tramp with a bit of a cheek”. But she let him be.
We thought it a nice touch when she had the small brass plate made and inscribed with “Sam’s Place”, and set on the back rest of that seat. And the engraving of the cat’s head under the words wasn’t a bad likeness of the old tabby. I miss him.



  1. As a short narrative piece for me I'd got to the end and read the quite unexpected twist in the tale before I started asking any questions. So from that point of view I found it amusingly satisfying.

  2. This is a tale with a twist, and therefore has a plot!